Friday, April 27, 2007

Congress Speaks Up...But What Did It Say?

Yesterday, the Senate joined the House in passing an appropriations bill containing language requiring the president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by March 1, 2008, or even sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks. The bill is certainly destined for a presidential what now?

I'm not completely convinced that the way in which Congress is trying to impose these deadlines on the deployment of US troops in Iraq is completely legal and constitutional. With this bill, Congress is trying to use the power of the purse to restrict US military activities in Iraq. But, looking at the language of the bill, it's not clear that's what Congress actually did. The parts containing the deadline for troop withdrawal (Section 1904) read as follows:
SEC. 1904. (a) The President shall make and transmit to Congress the following determinations, along with reports in classified and unclassified form detailing the basis for each determination, on or before July 1, 2007--
      (1) whether the Government of Iraq has given United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, and is making substantial progress in delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference; intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis; ensuring that Iraq's political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces; eliminating militia control of local security; establishing a strong militia disarmament program; ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws; establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan; and eradicating safe havens;
      (2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including enactment of a hydro-carbon law; adoption of legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections; reform of current laws governing the de-Baathification process; amendment of the Constitution of Iraq; and allocation of Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects;
      (3) whether the Government of Iraq and United States Armed Forces are making substantial progress in reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq; and
      (4) whether the Government of Iraq is ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament are protected.
    (b) If the President fails to make any of the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq no later than July 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.
    (c) If the President makes the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.
    Note that the withdrawal demands make no mention of prohibiting funds being used for the troops. In other parts of the bill, for example Sections 1311 or 1312, Congress places explicit restrictions on the way in which monies can be spent. Section 1311 states that:
    None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act shall be obligated or expended by the United States Government for a purpose as follows:
        (1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
        (2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq.
      while Section 1312 states that:
      None of the funds made available in this Act may be used in contravention of the following laws enacted or regulations promulgated to implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
      These are clear, unambiguous, and perfect examples of Congress using the power of the purse correctly. Congress is free to place restrictions such as these on monies appropriated to the president, and has, in the past, used such restrictions to bring to an end, or prohibit, presidential foreign policies with which Congress has disagreed, such as the possible expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, the Vietnam War itself, and support for the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

      But this is not what Congress has done with the troop deadlines. Section 1904 simply demands that the troops be withdrawn according to the timetable outlined by Congress; there is no language prohibiting funds to be used to maintain troops in the field. I'm no expert on Congress or the specific nature of legislative language, but it seems to me that the president could choose to claim that this attempt by Congress to force a withdrawal is an unconstitutional encroachment of Congress on to the commander-in-chief power of the president. Congress may not tell the president when and where troops may operate, especially not once those troops have been authorized by Congress (as they have with the AUMF) and funded (as they would be with this bill).

      What would be ideal, from my academic perspective, is for Bush to sign the bill and then refuse to comply with the deadline, which would put to the constitutional test some serious issues of war powers: Can Congress control the deployment of troops? Does the AUMF equal a declaration of war, as the administration often claims? It's not entirely clear that the president would win in the Supreme Court, but given my reading of case precedent and the make-up of the current Court, it does seem likely.

      But the larger question is: Why does Section 1904 lack the language of explicitly prohibiting funds for maintaining US troops in Iraq?

      There are several possibilities that come to mind. First is that Congress is trying to use its interpretation of the "declare war" clause, a la the War Powers Resolution, to end the war. In this scenario, Congress believes that the president needs explicit congressional approval to prosecute military operations and that by passing this bill that approval no longer exists. The problem here is twofold: First, it's not clear that this language would serve to undo the AUMF, and that without expressly revoking the authorization granted in the AUMF, any effort to order troops here or there looks like tactical moves that violate the CINC power of the president. Second, as I have argued in many places recently, it's not clear that the War Powers Resolution with its interpretation of congressional war powers is in fact constitutional.

      The second explanation for the absence of the prohibiting language is that Congress had to back away from the stronger language in order to assure passage of the bill. The votes in both houses was very close -- 51-46 in the Senate and 217-208 in the House -- and required both moderate Democrats and a few Republicans to vote yes. Those more centrist politicians may not have been willing to vote for a bill that, even if vetoed, would have put them on the record as having voted to de-fund the war. The legislation as passed, however, doesn't de-fund the war.

      Despite the publicity surrounding this bill, it seems as if it was never really intended to force the president to bring the troops home. This should not be surprising. Much of politics is about wheeling and dealing and back-room wrangling. Congress tries as much as possible, especially when foreign policy is involved, to voice its opinion without actually taking action. And this bill does exactly that.

      Tuesday, April 24, 2007

      Obama's Foreign Policy

      Senator Barack Obama gave a major address yesterday to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in which he laid out his vision for US foreign policy should he win the 2008 presidential election. The highlights, with commentary:

      The first way America will lead is by bringing a responsible end to this war in Iraq and refocusing on the critical challenges in the broader region.

      In a speech five months ago, I argued that there can be no military solution to what has become a political conflict between Sunni and Shi’a factions. And I laid out a plan that I still believe offers the best chance of pressuring these warring factions toward a political settlement – a phased withdrawal of American forces with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31st, 2008.
      First, there is increasing evidence that the surge is paying dividends. It's too early to claim that it's working, but it does seem to be creating the possibility of success in the future. It's clear that Congress is not going to stand up to the president's veto and try to enforce a hard withdrawal deadline. What's not so obvious is how the tune changes when a presidential candidate becomes president. It's one thing to snipe, it's another thing to change direction. Remember Candidate Clinton's threat to make China's MFN status contingent on improvements in China's human rights record? Or Candidate Bush's antipathy towards nation-building? Candidate Obama may want to bring the boys home, but President Obama will see that decision in a different light.

      The second way America will lead again is by building the first truly 21st century military and showing wisdom in how we deploy it.

      We must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world in order to defeat and deter conventional threats....That’s why I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines....

      I couldn't agree more with Obama here. The US military is too small, a result of American belief in the peace dividend following the Cold War and insufficient attention to the dangers of foreign affairs. However, the military doesn't just need to grow, it needs to do so smartly. The US military is clearly sufficiently large and well-equipped and trained to deal with a traditional military threat. Now, the US military needs to develop a nation-building capability. The needs of nation-building are not the same as combat, and the US needs to be capable of both.

      The third way America must lead again is by marshalling a global effort to meet a threat that rises above all others in urgency – securing, destroying, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction....Countries should not be able to build a weapons program under the auspices of developing peaceful nuclear power. That’s why we should create an international fuel bank to back up commercial fuel supplies so there’s an assured supply and no more excuses for nations like Iran to build their own enrichment plants. It’s encouraging that the Nuclear Threat Initiative, backed by Warren Buffett, has already offered funding for this fuel bank, if matched two to one. But on an issue of this importance, the United States should not leave the solution to private philanthropies. It should be a central component of our national security, and that’s why we should provide $50 million to get this fuel bank started and urge other nations, starting with Russia, to join us.

      Again, this is an excellent idea, although one that is not likely to have any real impact on the problem of proliferation. The fuel bank, while certainly a nice idea and a good signal of US commitment to non-proliferation and peaceful nuclear energy, is a solution to the problem of proliferation if countries are proliferating as an inevitable result of their quest to develop new energy technologies. But that's not why countries proliferate. They proliferate because they perceive possessing nuclear weapons to be in their interest. Does anyone, even Obama, really believe that if North Korea, Iran, or even India or Pakistan, would have forgone nuclear proliferation if they could have obtained fissile material from fuel bank? Those that seek nuclear energy for unquestionable peaceful purposes can already get technological assistance from the IAEA. Making fuel more obtainable will help those countries develop clean and more green sources of energy, but it won't help the problem of weapons proliferation.

      ...the fourth way America must lead is to rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change – that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure.

      NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has become a test case, in the words of Dick Lugar, of whether the alliance can “overcome the growing discrepancy between NATO’s expanding missions and its lagging capabilities.”

      We must close this gap, rallying members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization, streamlining decision-making processes, and giving commanders in the field more flexibility.
      Not a particularly controversial proposal, unless you're a non-American member of NATO. It would be great if the NATO members, especially the larger European ones, could increase their military capabilities. But it's not going to happen. These countries are barely able to maintain forces for deployment and have almost no power projection capabilities (read this article for an excellent discussion of this problem) and Europe is unlikely to cut domestic spending to increase military spending. What makes more sense is to encourage the Europeans to develop the kind of nation-building forces I mentioned above; a sort of military division-of-labor. The US should remain focused on doing the heavy-lifting of military combat, while the Europeans should specialize on dealing with the aftermaths of those conflicts.

      The fifth way America will lead again is to invest in our common humanity – to ensure that those who live in fear and want today can live with dignity and opportunity tomorrow.

      Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy – a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the world’s weakest states and providing them what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. And it requires states that have the capacity to fight terrorism, halt the proliferation of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

      As President, I will double our annual investments in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed towards these strategic goals.

      For the last twenty years, U.S. foreign aid funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. Doubling our foreign assistance spending by 2012 will help meet the challenge laid out by Tony Blair at the 2005 G-8 conference at Gleneagles, and it will help push the rest of the developed world to invest in security and opportunity. As we have seen recently with large increases in funding for our AIDS programs, we have the capacity to make sure this funding makes a real difference.

      Part of this new funding will also establish a two billion dollar Global Education Fund that calls on the world to join together in eliminating the global education deficit, similar to what the 9/11 commission proposed. Because we cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.
      There's a lot to like in this last one...but plenty not to like. First, the aid problem isn't just one of amounts. The process of governmental aid is broken; it's crippled by domestic priorities that insist that only US goods be used in the aid process, raising the cost as the goods must be shipped from the US rather than purchased from the area being aided (which would in turn help those economies). Of course the amount of monies lost in the US bureaucratic process is staggering. The Millennium Challenge was a step in the right direction, but even better would be to get the US out of the business of foreign aid altogether, and instead channel aid through NGOs and individual initiatives, like micro-finance operations, as well as provide massive amounts of consulting advice.

      I don't really have any conclusions here. There's definitely some good stuff in here, but there's a lot of stuff that seems more directly as public consumption than serious foreign policy. Of course, that's part of the campaign process. But, it's important to remember that with regards to foreign policy presidents, even more than congressmen, tend to gravitate towards a fairly common understanding of "national interest" that looks more realist than liberal, regardless of whether the president in question is a Democrat or Republican.

      Thursday, April 19, 2007

      Congress Backs Down

      Congressional Quarterly Today reports that the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives is "preparing their rank and file for the likelihood that a final supplemental spending measure will contain the nonbinding Iraq withdrawal language favored by the Senate." While the House's appropriations bill contained language that attempted to force a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by September 2008, the Senate's version of the bill only contained a non-binding target for withdrawal by March 2008. The bill would certainly have been vetoed by President Bush if it contained the binding deadline, but the House leadership appears to be unwilling to try to keep it in the final bill. Ultimately, while I have long been skeptical of the constitutionality of this attempt by the House to force the president's hand, it does show the wisdom of limiting the congressional role in foreign policy decision making and making it difficult for Congress to supersede the will of the president. Public opinion against the war may have bolstered the Democrat's in the November elections, but they're ultimately not willing to do what it takes to bring the boys home. Congressional spinelessness and unwillingness to appear soft on terror or unsupportive of the troops means that Congress will continue to snipe at the president's policies and the conduct of the war while avoiding all responsibility for the outcomes. A very unsurprising outcome.

      Wednesday, April 18, 2007

      Fiddling While Darfur Burns

      It is hard to imagine that anyone puts any faith in the UN to solve international crises any more. And yet, the optimism that followed the earlier announcement that Sudan would allow UN peace keepers into Darfur seemed to indicate trust that the blue helmets would soon be riding to rescue of the long-suffering Darfuris. However, all indications are that any hope that the genocide would be ending soon seems premature.

      First, Sudan only agreed to allow 3,000 UN troops into the region, and only in a supporting or advisory role. That would bring the total UN-African Union hybrid force to 10,000; far short of the 17,000 - 20,000 peace keepers that both the AU and the UN have claimed would be needed to properly monitor the situation and protect the civilians. There is no indication that Sudan is considering allowing the larger force into Darfur. And given that the UN is having trouble raising the 3,000 troops already given permission, it's not even clear that a larger force could be mustered. Furthermore, the New York Times reports today that Sudan has been flying heavy weapons into the area in planes disguised as UN or AU transports. There are also indications that these planes are being used to bombard villages. These certainly do not seem like the actions of a state willing to cooperate with the UN in order to end the genocide in Darfur.

      While the UN fiddles in the vain and desperate hopes that the murderous Sudanese regime will consent to end a policy that has so far served its purposes well, the US continues to push for a heavier hand in dealing with Sudan. Today, President Bush threatened to strengthen US sanctions against Sudan unless immediate actions are taken to stop the killing. Specifically, Bush demanded that "the Sudanese government must allow U.N. support forces, facilitate deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, stop supporting violent militias and let humanitarian aid reach the people of Darfur." If such actions are not forthcoming, Bush stated that "the United States would tighten economic sanctions on Sudan, barring certain companies from taking part in the U.S. financial system; target sanctions on individuals responsible for violence; and apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan."

      However, such sanctions while well-intentioned and certainly an improvement over the pathetic dithering and wishful thinking of the UN, aren't likely to have a sufficiently rapid effect to make a significant difference. If Darfur is to be saved, the US, NATO, the EU, and any other state that gives a damn needs to deploy military force to the area, without Sudanese consent if need be. In congressional hearings last week, Senator Joseph Biden called for just such an intervention, arguing that even 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now." And while Biden acknowledged that intervention would not end "solve the situation", "it will mean that there will be ten, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand, two thousand, five thousan, fifteen thousand women who will not be raped, children who will not die, and people who will not just be murdered indiscriminately." Biden went on to call for establishing a firm deadline by which Sudan would have to accept a larger and better-equipped UN peace keeping force or else face military intervention, even without the support of the UN. The UN has, of course, resisted any and all calls to set any hard or meaningful deadlines or demands.

      Unfortunately, the current policy situation makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the US to act. One of the most tragic results of the Iraq War, and the Vietnam War before that, is the increased reluctance of the US policy makers and the American public to support military intervention. Since the invasion of Iraq, American support for interventions like that in Kosovo has drastically declined. A 2005 Pew Center poll found that 42 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally, and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” It was the highest figure in over 40 years of polling on that question.

      The American experience in Iraq must not be allowed to prevent the US from intervening to stop genocide and prevent murderous regimes from destroying large swathes of their populations. As I have written about before, there are plenty of reasons why such an intervention should be seen as part of American strategic national interest. But we also should not forget the moral imperative. Never again.

      Friday, April 13, 2007

      A Victory For Engagement

      I blogged a few days ago about the role of the US strategy of engagement in moderating the behavior of China and how the recent filing of suit against China by the US in the WTO was likely to produce a nice test of the strategy as well as China's preferences. Today we have more evidence that the strategy of engagement is working. The New York Times is reporting that, after two years of shielding Sudan from international sanctions over the situation in Darfur, China has recently begun applying more pressure to Sudan. According to the article:

      A senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, traveled to Sudan to push the Sudanese government to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force. Mr. Zhai even went all the way to Darfur and toured three refugee camps, a rare event for a high-ranking official from China, which has extensive business and oil ties to Sudan and generally avoids telling other countries how to conduct their internal affairs.
      Why the change? The Times credits a PR campaign waged against the upcoming 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing:

      Credit goes to Hollywood — Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg in particular. Just when it seemed safe to buy a plane ticket to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, nongovernmental organizations and other groups appear to have scored a surprising success in an effort to link the Olympics, which the Chinese government holds very dear, to the killings in Darfur, which, until recently, Beijing had not seemed too concerned about.

      Ms. Farrow, a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund, has played a crucial role, starting a campaign last month to label the Games in Beijing the “Genocide Olympics” and calling on corporate sponsors and even Mr. Spielberg, who is an artistic adviser to China for the Games, to publicly exhort China to do something about Darfur. In a March 28 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, she warned Mr. Spielberg that he could “go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games,” a reference to a German filmmaker who made Nazi propaganda films.

      Four days later, Mr. Spielberg sent a letter to President Hu Jintao of China, condemning the killings in Darfur and asking the Chinese government to use its influence in the region “to bring an end to the human suffering there,” according to Mr. Spielberg’s spokesman, Marvin Levy.

      China soon dispatched Mr. Zhai to Darfur, a turnaround that served as a classic study of how a pressure campaign, aimed to strike Beijing in a vulnerable spot at a vulnerable time, could accomplish what years of diplomacy could not.

      Groups focusing on many issues, including Tibet and human rights, have called for boycotts of the Games next year. But none of those issues have packed the punch of Darfur, where at least 200,000 people — some say as many as 400,000 — mostly non-Arab men, women and children, have died and 2.5 million have been displaced, as government-backed Arab militias called the janjaweed have attacked the local population.

      It is extremely important to China that the Games go off smoothly. Hosting the Olympics represents China's aspirations to join and get respect from the international community. Landing the Games in the first place was seen as validation for China's economic and political moderation, and it scares China that something like Darfur could taint that. According to J. Stephen Morrison of CSIS, China's goal "is to be seen as an ethical, rising global power. Their goal is not to get in bed with every sleazy government that comes up with a little oil."

      Again we see the logic of engagement at work. Only by getting China to value its connections with the larger international community more than those with genocidal states would China be willing to challenge a strategic ally -- especially one that provides oil that is much-needed to maintain China's economic boom. While China has not yet agreed to allow the UN to impose serious sanctions on Sudan, there is evidence that Chinese pressure has been instrumental in the little ground Sudan has ceded lately. And while it may still be a long way to the deployment of an international peace keeping force, getting China to rethink where its interests lie is a critical step, and one that could only occur in the context of engagement.

      Thursday, April 12, 2007

      Pasta-Eating Surrender Monkeys

      After experiencing brutal international criticism for engineering a swap of imprisoned members of the Taliban for the release of an Italian reporter who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan, Italy has figured out how to ensure such controversy will not occur again. Italy's foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, has proposed that NATO and the UN develop guidelines for how how states should respond to hostage crises. According to the foreign minister, "it's time to explore the possibility of guidelines shared on an international level, a code of shared behaviour" that would create rules for when states would negotiate the release of kidnapped citizens.

      The idiocy of this is simply staggering. The Taliban have, since the deal with the Italian government, seized two French aid workers and their three Afghani companions in an effort to extract similar concessions from France. Furthermore, the Taliban reneged on the deal, only releasing the reporter and not the driver and translator who had also been seized (and have since been beheaded). It's bad enough when states capitulate to kidnappers and terrorists, but creating pre-existing guidelines would simply establish the legitimacy of the seizures and ensure that more would occur.

      At least the cheese-eating surrender monkeys have some company.

      Wednesday, April 11, 2007

      China's Poker Face

      The US recently announced that it would soon file suit against China in the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Chinese trade barriers as well as violations of intellectual property through piracy of DVDs, video games, CDs, books, and other good. The decision is a change in the long-standing approach of the US, defined as "engagement," in which the US has overlooked Chinese violations of various laws and norms -- such as in human rights as well as economic -- in order to not derail the process of tying China more tightly to the international political and economic community. For example, after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the economic sanctions imposed by the US only lasted about 6 months (although a joint arms embargo imposed by the US and the EU is still in place today). When newly-elected President Clinton tried to condition renewal of Chinese Most-Favored Nation status on improvements in Chinese human rights policies as a response to the perceived soft American reaction to Tiananmen Square, Clinton was forced to abandon his threat and back away from confrontation.

      The policy of engagement is based on two assumptions. One is that the process of domestic economic growth will create a climate more conducive to the development of a middle class, which in turn will demand political reforms, such as property rights and increased access to information, to protect their new-found wealth and status and to ensure future competitiveness. Such political reform will inevitably move the country closer to democracy, and following the logic of the democratic peace theory, democracies are less bellicose. Thus, China's peaceful rise can be assured by turning the country into a nation of rich, middle-class consumers.

      The second thread of engagement is an argument that as China's economy grows, China will become increasingly tied to international economic and political institutions, such as the WTO. As that interdependence grows, China will come to identify its national interest with cooperation, not confrontation, as confrontation would risk upsetting the apple cart, threatening to undermine all of China's economic ties.

      This larger policy of engagement, however, does create a moral hazard problem, in which China is encouraged to "cheat" in the short-term, knowing that the US is taking a long-term approach, and won't punish defection too seriously for fear for ruining the larger relationship. This explains, among other things, the "China-Google" controversy from last year.

      So why is the US willing to challenge China now? For one, the process of Chinese integration into the global economy and political superstructure has proceeded nicely. Chinese entry into the WTO marked a critical junction; if China was willing to join the WTO and alter its laws to meet membership requirements, it is possible that the appropriate level of economic and political integration has occurred, and that China now identifies its interest with the status quo.

      In my dissertation, as well as an article I published in the journal Security Studies entitled "Institutional Signaling and the Origins of the Cold War," I argued that institutions are vitally important to international politics not only for their intended benefits, but because they force states to reveal private information about their type and preferences. Complying with an institutional obligation forces a state to revel that it values adherence more than defection. That enables other states to then judge the first state's intentions and preferences.

      China will be faced with a separating equilibrium -- a costly decision that will force actors of one type to choose one action, while actors of another type will not be willing to pay the cost and thus will choose a different action; this then reveals the preferences of the actors -- in the WTO: Risk losing in the WTO process and be forced to change its laws and behaviors (something China obviously would prefer not to do, otherwise the laws and behaviors in question wouldn't exist), or refuse to comply. Refusal will, however, force the EU and the US to question Chinese commitment to the multilateral economic and political institutions that make up the international system. Why would China be allowed to benefit from those institutions if it won't meet its obligations and responsibilities? Failure to comply would put at risk the economic growth that has buoyed the Chinese state. But, if China would prefer to pursue its own path, if it sees the extant rules as incommensurate with its national interest, it will not be willing to pay the price of WTO compliance.

      The suit filed by the US against China signals that the US is ready to test Chinese intentions. All eyes will be on China to see if it complies with the institutional processes and any adverse ruling. If it does, the policy of engagement will be justified. If not, however, expect to see increased confrontation and suspicion of Chinese intentions. My guess is that China will comply. There's simply too much at stake for China to prefer being a revisionist state that seeks to undermine the status quo.

      Tuesday, April 10, 2007

      The Larger Case For Intervention

      The genocide in Darfur has been going on for some time now; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered and millions have been chased from their homes. In response, the international community has done, essentially, nothing. This lack of interest is not difficult to understand. States are extremely reluctant to risk their own soldiers and resources on humanitarian interventions. The US experience in Somalia in 1993-4 is the model for this reluctance, but the failure to stop the bloodshed in Rwanda demonstrates that the lesson was learned. NATO's intervention in Kosovo is the exception that proves the rule, as Kosovo was much more about strategic and national interests than enforcing moral or ethical values.

      Darfur, goes the argument, may be a tragedy, but it is worse when states become involved in conflicts in which their interest is low. When interest is low, states do not devote sufficient resources and lack political will (as happened in Somalia), making it unlikely that the intervention will succeed and often making the situation worse. There is no national interest in ending the genocide in Darfur. So nothing will happen. The UN fails to condemn it, the international community fails to act, and "never again" becomes a meaningless catchphrase.

      But, does the genocide in Darfur really not threaten US, Western, or international interests? Not at all. As I blogged a few weeks back, humanitarian intervention can be understood as part of American national interest, and this is especially true in Darfur. First, the US is and always has been (current debates over Guantanamo aside) a leader in the promulgation of liberal values, human rights, and international law. That role depends on the US putting its money where its mouth is; only by acting to prevent the grossest violations of human rights and international law and norms can the US maintain its position that it held during the Cold War of the defender of freedom. Without US leadership and military force, the world would be a much more violent and much less free place.

      But there are other ways that humanitarian crises like Darfur represent more serious threats to US national interest. For example, tensions are rising between Sudan and Chad over a border incursion by Chadian forces into Sudan this past weekend. Sudanese-backed rebels often cross into Chad to attack Darfurian militias, as well as refugee camps, and Chad has begun crossing into Sudan in pursuit of the rebels. This has the potential to spiral into a larger war, and this is exactly why ethnic conflicts should be understood as part of national interest. Ethnic conflict creates larger regional conflicts and creates failed states; these things destabilize regions other states, creating even larger wars as well as the conditions for terrorism. Al Qaeda and the Taliban had their Afghani roots in the fact that once the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan, the US failed to devote any resources to building a state, allowing the Taliban to seize power and collaborate with al Qaeda. The failed US operation in Somalia led to the control of that country by an Islamic fundamentalist group with connections to al Qaeda. What happens in African states that seem to have little strategic import can in fact matter greatly to the US.

      Fighting against those states that would allow the massacre of their populations is not just a moral issue. In fact, the moral argument is not likely to be one that produces the desired result. Opposing genocide is, however, also in the strategic interest of the US and its liberal allies. Building an international community based on respect for basic human rights is of strategic interest to all. And that is why humanitarian intervention should remain an active component of US foreign policy. Especially and immediately in Darfur.

      Tuesday, April 03, 2007

      Behold the Awesome Awesomeness That Is Europe!!

      Belgium has figured out the real culprit in global warming: grilled meat. Here's the proposal of how to deal with the threat:
      BRUSSELS, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - The government of Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia, which has a population of about 4 million, has approved a tax on barbequing, local media reported.

      Experts said that between 50 and 100 grams of CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas, is emitted during barbequing. Beginning June 2007, residents of Wallonia will have to pay 20 euros for a grilling session.

      The local authorities plan to monitor compliance with the new tax legislation from helicopters, whose thermal sensors will detect burning grills.

      Never mind that enforcement will be done with helicopters that will undoubtedly pump more CO2 in to the atmosphere than do the illicit grillers. This is clearly the necessary move to prevent rising oceans and deforestation.

      [Hat tip to Geoff for the title...]

      When the War on Terror Meets the War on Drugs

      What happens when the War on Terror runs smack-dab into the War on Drugs? Well, we may be about to find out. The Independent is reporting that Tony Blair is considering legalizing the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan:

      This year's opium harvest will almost certainly be the largest ever. In the five years since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, land under cultivation for poppy has grown from 8,000 to 165,000 hectares.

      The US wants to step up eradication programmes, crop-spraying from the air. But, desperate to win "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan and protect British troops, Tony Blair is on the brink of a U-turn that will set him on a collision course with President George Bush.

      The Prime Minister has ordered a review of his counter-narcotics strategy - including the possibility of legalising some poppy production - after an extraordinary meeting with a Tory MP on Wednesday, The Independent on Sunday has learnt. Tobias Ellwood, a backbencher elected less than two years ago, has apparently succeeded where ministers and officials have failed in leading Mr Blair to consider a hugely significant switch in policy.

      Supporters of the measure say it would not only curb an illegal drugs trade which supplies 80 per cent of the heroin on Britain's streets, but would hit the Taliban insurgency and help save the lives of British troops. Much of the legally produced drug could be used to alleviate a shortage of opiates for medicinal use in Britain and beyond, they say.

      A Downing Street spokesman confirmed last night that Mr Blair is now considering whether to back a pilot project that would allow some farmers to produce and sell their crops legally to drugs companies.

      ...the links between drug warlords, terrorism and the Taliban are clear. Traffickers hold poor farmers in a form of bondage through the supply of credit, paid back in opium. Many of those fighting British troops during the winter months will return to their villages to harvest poppy crops in the spring and summer. The traffickers' huge profits help to fund the fight against NATO troops.

      The White House has consistently rejected the idea that opium could help to solve Afghanistan's chronic poverty. But there are clear signs of a shift in international opinion towards allowing a legal trade. Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, has said that "buying the crop is an idea we could explore". He added: "We would need money from the US or the UN. But we could buy the whole crop and destroy it. In that way the poor growers would not suffer."

      If Britain moves forward with this plan, President Bush will be faced with an exceedingly difficult decision: Confront the most important ally the US has, or betray a cause of vital importance to his conservative base, as well as to most of the US population.

      While I am not quite comfortable recommending the legalization of hard drugs, I have long been of the opinion that the War on Drugs is a massive waste of resources. It is also clear that the War on Drugs reduces supply, which inflates prices, and leads to the violence endemic to the drug trade. Furthermore, since the drug trade is illegal, disputes between dealers cannot be settled in a court of law and must be "resolved" with violence. Legalizing drugs may create more addicts (although I'm not even convinced of this), but it would almost certainly drastically reduce drug-related violence.

      The problem becomes even clearer in the context of the War on Terror. For many of the poor farmers in Afghanistan, poppy cultivation is one of the only avenues for economic opportunity available. As Christopher Hitchens noted a few years back:

      ...a third of Afghanistan's GDP depends on the crop and that "destroying that trade without offering our farmers a genuine alternative livelihood has the potential to undo the embryonic economic gains of the past three years." As he further emphasized, these highly undesirable consequences arise from the control of the trade by a "mafia" with links to Islamic nihilism.

      Problem solving is rarely about the optimal solutions. Rather, it's about balancing scarce resources and trying to achieve positive outcomes. There's plenty of evidence that the War on Drugs hasn't been particularly effective and has cost this country billions of dollars and imprisoned large numbers of people for relatively minor crimes. But if the War on Drugs conflicts with putting an end to the Taliban and consolidating democracy and civil society in Afghanistan, it seems pretty clear what the choice should be.

      Monday, April 02, 2007

      Tensions Ease In Iran

      The situation between Iran and Great Britain concerning the fate of 15 British sailors seized by Iran seems to be easing a bit. Iran has just announced that it does not think it necessary to try the sailors, a statement that seems to pave the way for a diplomatic end to the crisis. Iran seems to have realized that it made a serious miscalculation, as British and American pressure and threats were quick to follow the seizure. Furthermore, Russia has offered little defense to its client, and there was no mention of easing UN sanctions concerning Iran's nuclear program. And while the situation isn't completely resolved yet (Iran is still insisting that Britain apologize, something that Britain seems unlikely to do), things seem to be trending in the right direction.

      While it's all well and good to avoid military force, the situation is an important reminder of what it means to be a "rogue state." This is not merely some designation cooked up by President Bush to describe states he doesn't like. Rather, it refers to states that do not play by the rules and seek to challenge the existing order. Iran is, plain and simple, a rogue state. It supports international terrorism, it violates its international legal commitments under the NPT, it ignores the UN and international law, and it seizes hostages to make political points and give itself leverage. While it may be nearly impossible to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we should not forget why the US and Europe should do whatever they can to prevent that from happening.

      A Choice In Darfur

      Last week was hailed by some as a moderate breakthrough in Darfur, as Sudan once again agreed to consider allowing UN support to the beleaguered African Union peacekeeping mission in the troubled region. However, as even the New York Times acknowledged in an editorial this weekend, Sudan is unlikely to comply with this new deal, let alone implement it in a manner that will actually make a difference to the hundreds of thousands of murdered or the millions of displaced Darfuris. Unsurprisingly, things are once again getting worse; five African Union peacekeepers were killed as they guarded a water resource, underscoring how vulnerable and ineffective the AU force truly is.

      Those who care about stopping genocide and ending the crisis in Sudan are faced with a choice: Support the multilateral process of the UN and international law or call for unilateral intervention by, among other possibilities, the United States. All too often, those involved in the Darfur debate, such as the Times and its stalwart columnist Nicholas Kristof, opt for the first solution, calling on the UN to get serious in enforcing its rules and norms. Witness the Times editorial referenced above:

      The diplomatic timidity of the handful of governments that have denounced the horrors in Darfur has been almost as frustrating as the callousness of the many that will not. The European Union, for example, has no meaningful sanctions of its own against the responsible Sudanese leaders. The United States, which has been enforcing financial sanctions against a list of companies and individuals linked to the Darfur genocide, needs to expand the list, toughen the sanctions and persuade its allies, in Europe and elsewhere, to apply similar restrictions.

      The United Nations has repeatedly disgraced itself by its halfhearted and inadequate response to the gravest human rights challenge it has faced since it failed the same genocide test in Rwanda more than a decade ago. The Security Council, which has authorized an international force, must now see to it that it is actually dispatched. The Human Rights Council, which should focus moral pressure on the Sudanese government, holds back from doing so. And Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his representatives have too often been taken in by Mr. Bashir’s hollow assurances.

      China and a shrinking bloc of nonaligned nations have repeatedly put the sovereign right of Sudan’s rulers to annihilate minorities ahead of the international community’s legal responsibility to prevent genocide and protect human rights.

      Other international leaders need to demonstrate that they can act as well as talk, or else fine words and empty deeds will be the epitaph for the dwindling survivors of Darfur.

      OK...all nice words. But what does the Times ultimately recommend that will end the genocide? Nothing. The UN cannot and will not act. The Security Council is crippled by its institutional structure that allows any permanent member -- Russia and China in this case -- to block the will of the international community and the enforcement of international law. The UN Human Rights Council prefers to focus its attention on Israel and dismiss any challenges to its moral authority than examine what's going on in Darfur. As of today, there has been no condemnation from the highest international human rights body. Nicholas Kristof, who perhaps more than anyone else has kept public attention on Sudan and Darfur, is no better. He truly cares about Darfur, but refuses to acknowledge the only avenue by which the genocide must be ended.

      If Darfur is to be saved before only a Pyhrric victory will be left, it must be the US that chooses to save it. If the UN is to be involved, then China and Russia must be told that their defense of Sudan will come at the high price of international economic relations with the West. If China wants to benefit from globalization and trade with the US and Europe, it must behave responsibly in international politics and stop protecting the worst of the worst. However, such actions will take a long time. If Darfur is to be saved, the US must deploy peacekeeping forces immediately, or, more likely, offer logistical support to an EU force that can bolster the AU force already on the ground. Only such direct and immediate intervention will stem the tide of genocide before its too late.

      Of course such an action is a violation of international law. So was the intervention in Kosovo, as well as the invasion of Iraq. The letter of international law is all too often a hindrance to the enforcement of its spirit. and if you're serious about saving Darfur, it's time to abandon hope in the UN or law itself, and acknowledge that only military force can bring justice.